Sunday, November 27, 2011

Serena's Bicycle Exploits, Part 2 (or The Great Bike Crash)

After Monday’s bicycle fiasco, I decided to read up on biking regulations. “Hey, Stace!” I called, “Look—we don’t have to wear helmets here. And look—if we want to go through a crosswalk, we have to get off the bike. We’re s’posed to stay in the road like a car.” Armed with my new-found knowledge, I went to sleep Tuesday night, prepared to bike to chapel the following morning.

I planned to arrive at school an hour before chapel to study. My hair was still curly from the day before, so I wound it into a loose braid and reached for my helmet. For a moment, I considered not wearing it—but I put it on, reasoning that my parents might be displeased if I smashed in the brains they had cultivated. It turns out that this was a very good idea.

I set out, trying not to think about the ride home later that day. I practiced a few braking techniques I’d read about, not really noticing a difference. “They’ll make you safer!” the website had promised. I stopped at stop signs (yes, you’re supposed to. . .) and practiced hand signals—cautiously.

I had just crossed the intersection of Anderson and Lawton (about a mile from the school) when I felt myself teetering. “Uh. . . Oh, dear!” I remember thinking. “I’m falling!” As I crashed to the ground and skidded along the pavement, my first thought was, “I’m sure glad I wore my helmet!” Then my bike collapsed on top of me and my helmet scraped the ground.

The impressive pattern from the bike chain
I laid there for a few seconds, stunned. “I think I’m going to get hit by a car,” I finally reasoned, and struggled to stand up. My right arm was curiously stiff and a teardrop-shaped rip on my hand exposed raw pink flesh—now beading with blood. The shredded skin hung limp, gravel-encrusted. I limped out from under my bike and tried to pick it up—but pain shot through my arm and stabbed my left pinky finger. I struggled to right my bike, but my arms didn’t work. I’m broken! I thought. I just broke both my arms!

I finally got my bike into an upright position, but the wheels stubbornly refused to move. I tried wiggling the handlebars, but the fall had forced them into a crooked position and the back wheel stayed put. Sighing in frustration, close to tears, I set up the kickstand and considered my options. I couldn’t leave the bike here, in the middle of the street. But I couldn’t pick it up, either. I couldn’t ride it to school or ride it home. I glanced up at the houses surrounding me. Across the street, a manicured, flower-speckled lawn surrounded a tidy yellow house. The driveway was only 100 feet from where I stood.

Still wearing my helmet, I walked stiffly up the stairs to the front door. I cradled my bleeding hand in my left, taking care not to touch the pinky finger, and bent my stiffening arm into a more comfortable crook. I stood in front of the door, sighed, and pushed the doorbell.

The lady who opened the door looked at me curiously, taking in my helmet and disheveled hair, my bleeding hand and knee, and the bruises slowly forming on my legs. “Hi,” I croaked out, trying a smile. “I just—I just crashed my bike in front of your house and I was wondering if I could—if you could keep it in your garage until I can come and get it.”
 Her expression didn’t change.
“I hurt myself.” I showed her my hand, which now looked like I had stigmata, wincing as I extended it. “And I can’t—I can’t ride it. It’s broken too, I think.” I managed to keep tears from my eyes.
The woman nodded, her expression one of efficiency. “I see,” she said, walking onto the porch. “Yes, yes. Of course.”

We walked down to my bike and I showed her the problem—the back brake had become jammed in the wheel when the bike fell. I couldn’t pull it out—my arms were still weak and pain stabbed through when I tried to use them. The lady ended up carrying my bike into her garage as I walked limply behind, thanking her along the way. We negotiated a pickup time and she returned to her house. Even I don't get it back, I thought. I really don’t care at this point.

How my knee turned out.
Now what? Should I walk to school? Or go back home and drive? By this time, all the parking would be gone. I’d have to park in Lot J—which was closer to where I stood than home was. Besides, I didn’t think I could drive. Fingers fumbling, I unfastened my helmet and let it drop into the crook of my arm. Hand facing up to keep from dripping blood down my arm, I rested my other, quickly-swelling hand on the helmet. And walked to school.

When I kept my arm bent, it didn’t hurt so much. But the entire half of my left hand throbbed painfully no matter how I positioned it. I bet it’s broken, I thought calmly. And I’ll have to wear a cast forever and I’ll probably miss chapel. At a crosswalk, a man wearing a Loma Linda ID pushed the button.
“Excuse me, sir,” I began. “But I think I just broke my hand.” My voice clogged with tears, but I cleared it and continued. “Do you know where I would go?”

He looked uncomfortable. “Um,” he began. The little man showed up on the crosswalk sign and we started walking—he at an impressively rapid speed. I doubled my pace to keep up. Seeing I was still there, he sighed. “I guess you could go to Urgent Care.”
“Where’s Urgent Care?” I asked.
He sighed again. “It’s maybe a couple miles up that way.” He pointed vaguely in the direction of the street.
“Oh. I don’t—“ I began, but we had reached the other side and he was already rushing away. Sighing, I continued on.

As I walked, I vacillated back and forth. It’s broken. It’s not broken. My arm is broken. No it’s not. My hand stopped bleeding. But the other one’s broken. But it’s not.

I finally got to the church. It was still nearly an hour before chapel, so it was empty. Looking in the mirror, I examined my arms and tested their range of movement. My right elbow could extend from forty-five degrees to ninety degrees with little pain. Any farther in either direction and I involuntarily cried out. My left hand was already swollen and a reddish-purple tinge was beginning near my wrist.

Exhibit B (enjoy the spoon)
I washed the blood from my knee and hand, finding that my palm had not, in fact, stopped bleeding. I pressed paper towels into it. Then I sighed, took out my phone, contorted my arm into a position that could hold it, and called my mom.

After she had convinced me that I probably wasn’t broken (at least, not in the literal sense), I went back into the deserted church, wrestled off my backpack, and managed to extract my notes.

Several sweet people offered to drive me home that day, but Staci had already offered to help me pick up my bike at the lady’s house. I made it through the day with lots of help, little movement, and a bunch of ibuprofen.
Staci and I arrived at the yellow house just as the lady’s car pulled in. She got out, then assisted an elderly gentleman, who pointed at Staci and spoke to the woman in Spanish. “Me gusta la camiseta!” The lady smiled in embarrassment and told Staci, “He likes your blouse.”

She opened the garage door and Staci and I went in. Deftly, she extracted the brake from the wheel. “I can probably ride this home,” she stated.
“Even with the handlebars crooked?”

She moved it out the garage door to take an experimental ride, when we found the elderly man still staring at us. The lady tried to hurry him inside, but he said to us, “You have a key to the garage?”
We looked at each other, confused. “Uh. . . no. No, I just left my bike here because I crashed it—” I pointed toward the other side of the street. “—over there.” I smiled.
He returned the smile. “But, you have a key to the garage?”
“No, this is just—I don’t—we have our own garage.”
Staci put in, “Yes, we won’t need to use your garage again.”
“Thank you!”
He kept grinning. “But you can have a key. Then, you put whatever you want.”
The lady gently tugged on his arm, whispering to him in Spanish. He ignored her.
“No, sir. Thank you. We won’t need to use it again.” We moved toward the street. The man watched us go, then allowed himself to be led back into the house

So, was I broken? Well, I had trouble moving my arm for a week, and it took four weeks before I was off ibuprofen. Nearly six weeks later, I still feel twinges now and then. But I have some magnificent scars, an excellent story, and a garage whenever I need it.

My hand--the before picture was a bit gruesome. :/

My lovely new knee-scar